Ask the Expert:
It’s not likely to get an infection from a yoga mat, but that doesn’t mean those studio mats are clean.
Answers to your questions about health, nutrition, anatomy, and more.
Q from YJ Reader: Can I pick up an infection if I use the yoga mat in my studio?
It’s not likely, but that doesn’t mean those studio mats are clean. Without regular sanitizing, a mat accumulates bacteria that live on everyone’s skin, such as staphylococci and streptococci. While harmless in most cases, if these bacteria come into contact with an open wound, they can lead to infection and more-serious illness. Cold and flu germs can also spread from nose to mat, so there’s a small chance of infection for the next person who uses the mat (these bugs can survive on a surface for hours). The same holds for foot fungi, which can survive for days. The bottom line: The risks are low. We live in a world of microorganisms, and they are an unavoidable part of life. If you’re concerned, avoid touching your nose, eyes, and mouth during class, and wash your hands with soap and hot water afterward.
–Amesh Adalja, MD
Infectious-disease physician, University of Pittsburgh Center for Health Security
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